July 6, 2016 4:46 pm
Updated: July 6, 2016 5:31 pm

Nova Scotia SPCA program reduces Halifax cat colony populations

WATCH ABOVE: Last April, Halifax Regional Council approved a $50,000 grant for an SPCA program. Staff and volunteers help trap cats to later spay or neuter and eventually release. The aim is to slow the growth of feral cat colonies, which can number into the hundreds population-wise. Global's Steve Silva tagged along on a trapping attempt earlier this week.

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The Nova Scotia SPCA, along with several groups dedicated to helping animals, is trapping feral cats, then neutering or spaying them, and later returning them to their habitat in an effort to slow the population growth of cat colonies in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

“A cat colony of five to 10 cats, within a year, can become 40 to 50 cats if it’s not addressed,” Heather Woodin, project coordinator for the Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) program, said.

The SPCA determined through a survey in March that there are more than 60 colonies in the municipality’s communities, some of which have more than 500 cats.

Last Monday evening, Woodin and a volunteer team trapped cats from a colony of between 10 and 15 cats on Cameron Street in Dartmouth.

“The community actually reached out to us for help,” she said.

Cats can become pregnant at about six months of age and birth about four or five cats in a litter, up to three times a year, according to Woodin.

“Cats really love the taste of fried chicken, so it’s one of our favourite baits that we use when we’re trying to catch them,” Layla Rodgerson, a volunteer for Spay Day Nova Scotia, explained.

A cat takes a few bites of a snack seconds before the trap closes shut.

Steve Silva / Global News

She set up one of the traps between two homes in the area.

Rodgerson also uses catnip, tuna, and sardines — “anything smelly is good.”

TNR is funded by a $50,000 grant approved by Halifax Regional Council last April.

In the program’s first month, more than 100 cats have been brought in; some of those cats eventually found homes with humans but most were brought back to their colonies.

More than 100 cats have been taken in through the Nova Scotia SPCA’s Trap, Neuter, Return program.

Steve Silva / Global News

“The cats that are participating in this program are typically not friendly cats. They’re not your average house cat that can be adopted into a home,” Woodin said.

Once trapped, the cats are neutered or spayed the next day, and released a few days after that.

“It can be very stressful for them to go through this process, but it’s a one-time thing, so, overall, it’s a better thing for their health,” Woodin explained.

It often takes 45 minutes to trap a cat, sometimes hours, though the first cat caught that night occurred within a few minutes.

Layla Rodgerson, a volunteer, sets up a cat trap.

Steve Silva / Global News

The other groups involved in the program include Healing Animals SCARS, Mischief’s Memory Cat Rescue, Halifax Cat Rescue Society, and Tapa Cat Rescue.

Community members’ involvement is key, Rodgerson said, because they know where the cats hide and have to give permission to volunteers to use traps on their property.

“This guy’s really feisty,” she said as she carried a trap with a thrashing cat inside into a car.

“Now we go do it again.”

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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